A bid to provide superfast broadband to remote properties in Northumberland has been awarded almost £500,000 government funding.
Cybermoor, a social enterprise based at Alston, on the county’s border with Cumbria, has been awarded £449,997 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for a project which aims to deliver faster broadband to the hardest to reach places.
The project, a partnership with Northumberland County Council, aims to explore how money can be attracted through social investment to deliver superfast broadband to the county’s most remote areas.
It will also look at ways the relevant technology can be provided in those areas, and ultimately see the faster broadband rolled out to properties there.
Should the project prove successful, it could then be rolled out across the country.
The DCMS announced the funding as part of a £10m innovation fund to explore ways to take superfast broadband to the most remote and hardest to reach places in the UK.
Eight different projects using a range of technologies have been shortlisted to progress to the feasibility stage, ahead of deployment later this year.
With the government’s current nationwide rollout already reaching more than 20,000 new premises each week and on track to deliver superfast to 95% of the UK by 2017, ministers are now focusing on exploring ways to reach those premises in the final 5%.
Cybermoor, which already provides superfast broadband at Alston, has been given the money to develop a financing solution to leverage social investment into fibre to the premise and wireless networks in the last 5%.
Daniel Heery, project manager, explained that the project will look at attracting money from individuals or businesses willing to fund the rollout to hard to reach properties, as well as working with communities on how the network can be delivered, including whether farmers are willing to dig trenches on their land to take the cable.
Mr Heery said: “To build the fibre optic network in rural areas will be really expensive. There is a huge cost of digging up fields. It pays back because there is benefits from being people able to connect. It pays for itself.”
He added: “We have bid into this new pot of Government funding to see if we could replicate what we have in Alston in other areas working with social investment. We are hoping the work will be replicated in communities in Northumberland but also all over the country.”
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our nationwide rollout is progressing at a terrific rate and each week superfast speeds are becoming a reality for tens of thousands of homes and businesses in rural areas across the UK. We know how important this has become which is why we are investing £10m in these pilots to explore how we can extend coverage beyond the 95% of the UK we are on track to deliver by 2017.”
Rural Affairs Minister Dan Rogerson said: “Fast and reliable broadband revolutionises everything from how we work and how our children learn, to how we spend our leisure time and engage with public services.
“It is critical that we explore how to get superfast broadband out to these hard to reach areas to allow business to be more productive, innovative and competitive, which is crucial for building a stronger rural economy and fairer society."